About 5,000 supporters of Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gathered in the capital, Dakar, on Tuesday for a three-day protest to show support for the aspiring presidential candidate, who faces a libel case set to resume this week.
The demonstrations are the latest expression of growing tensions in Senegal in the run-up to a 2024 election that could see President Macky Sall vie for a controversial third term, which the opposition says is unconstitutional. Sall’s opponents accuse him of seeking to weaken the competition with false accusations and political trials before the election. The government denies this.
Senegal has long been seen as a beacon of democracy in West Africa. But critics have become frustrated with Sall’s crackdown on dissent and his perceived failure to improve economic livelihoods for the majority of people. At protests in June 2022, cries of “Macky Sall is a dictator” rang out in Dakar as citizens called out the wide-ranging powers vested in the presidency, and the yearslong pattern of political opposition being stymied, always on seemingly technical grounds. The resulting crackdown on the protests earned rebukes from the United Nations special rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly as well as Amnesty International.
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